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Employee development, as a concept, means fostering employee’s personal growth, their self esteem and their effectiveness as a person. It has been used by major organisations such as the Ford Motor Company, but small businesses can use the concept too.

Typical training needs analysis means looking at employees’ performance. It establishes a “gap” between that performance and the organisation’s need. Employee development takes a radically different approach, focusing on the employee rather than the organisation.

What are the benefits?

When employees have high self-esteem they work more effectively. They are far less vulnerable to anxiety, depression and stress – all of which would be bad news for an employer.

Employees with good life skills are an invaluable asset. If they can keep their heads through the normal ups and downs of life then they will do that in the work environment as well.

Emotional intelligence is improved. That has benefits for interpersonal relationships, for avoiding and, where necessary, resolving conflict.

A sense of responsibility can be created. Individuals who accept responsibility are another great asset to any business.

Employees may bring new ideas, new ways of doing things and a positive attitude.

So how does an employer create these benefits?

A training allowance: Ford’s approach was to give each employee a “training allowance” to be used as the employee felt fit. A sum of money was made available. Providing it represented development in some form Ford would provide that money for the individual’s training. So the training could be a language course, a sailing course or anything which expanded an individual’s horizons. Ideally it should be something new to the individual and stretch their comfort zone. But there were few restrictions imposed by Ford.

Public service: when I was a Personnel Manager, our shop convenor was a magistrate and we had another magistrate among our staff. We were happy to allow time for these activities because it exposed individuals to decision making and particularly the challenges of making decisions where not everything is black and white. Similarly, from a Chairman of ACAS to one of my colleagues, the experience of being a school governor has been commended to me.
By using employee development you can expect to reduce absence, have more effective employees and possibly take your business to a new level.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice